Over The Rainbow


"This one is for all of our boys, who went over seas and gave them hell. It's for the boys who lost their lives in Pear Harbor a few days ago. They say we can't swim, but a lot of our boys died too. It's especially for those of you preparing to give them hell this time around." Thelma spoke sensually.

She slowly removed the long shawl she had been wearing for the first three songs to reveal a sparkling red ball gown. The men in he crowd hollered and the women in the crowd clapped as she strutted across the stage, giving instructions to the musicians in the band. Thelma was on the rise, her stage presence and natural charisma were setting her up to rival Bessie Smith.

"When all the world is a hopeless jumble

and the raindrops tumble all around

Heaven opens a magic lane

When all the clouds darken up the skyway

There's a rainbow highway to be found

Leading from your window pane

To a place beyond the sun

Just a step beyond the rain

Somewhere over the rainbow"

Everyone in the crowd had heard Garland sing "Over the Rainbow," but they had never heard Thelma sing it. They had never heard the lost verse before, nor the emotion poured into every word as she sang it. The words digging their way through their ears and touching their hearts. For a moment they believed their would be a brighter day for America, a brighter day for Black people in America.

A sound of glass shattering brought an end to that fragile dream. A Molotov cocktail had been lobbed into the building. Thelma tried to keep everyone calm over the microphone but the screams drowned her voice out as people panicked, rushing towards exits as another came crashing through a window. Thelma watched in horror as the building went up 

Wesley Murdock, Thelma's childhood friend, and long time drummer grabbed her arm and led her out of the building without a word. Outside the crowd took counts, and made sure groups were complete. Thelma watched as the building burned, almost hypnotized by the flames. She didn't hear when she was asked to speak to everyone the first time. She heard the second time, and finally answered the third.

"What do you want me to say? You want me to sing a song? Something like 'We Shall Overcome,' because we can't overcome this bullshit. This is America, this Black. A bunch Japs just blew a bunch of Americans up. Not white Americans, Black Americans, just Americans like Negro boys weren't on those ships too. We about to go to war, and they still got time to burn our club. Ain't nothing I can tell these people, they don't already know. 

Nobody in the crowd spoke. Thelma didn't lie, her feelings were not those of her her own. They were the feelings of every man and woman there that night. Their building burned and not a single fire truck was to be heard. Not a single person was coming to put out this fire. Their building would burn to the ground. A handful of men in that crowd had served during World War I and many more would be shipping off to World War II. America never had any second thoughts about sending Black boys to war, but when it came to protecting Black people, the country fell short every time.

The feeling in the crowd tonight was not that of people who saw peace coming on the other side of the rainbow. It was the feeling of people who had been brutalized in their own home. The other side of the rainbow was nothing more than more famine and death. 

Lightning parted the sky and thunder shook the Earth as rain began to fall. First slowly, evaporating before they could touch the flames. Then faster, more rapid. The people didn't move, they watched as the water poured into their club. Blown through open windows and doors as if it were and act of God almighty to save their club from the fate bestowed on it by devils that night.

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